As soon as I saw the first few scenes of Vishal Bharadwaj’s RANGOON featuring Russi Bilimoria, played brilliantly by Saif Ali Khan, a question struck me suddenly. Why does Vishal get the best out of Saif only when he is playing the role of a physically impaired person? Is it that that his character’s grey hues become greyer with that little impairment added? Those of you who have seen Vishal’s OMKARA will perhaps understand my question. But Saif is not the only one to essay perfectly the characters of RANGOON, based on a story by Matthew Robbins. Shahid Kapoor, who is a favourite of Vishal Bharadwaj (KAMINEY, HAIDER), Kangna Ranaut (from whom we have begun to expect nothing less than a stellar act) and Richard McCabe (a British Theatre actor) who play the other important characters of the period story excel in their performances. Just when I was beginning to think as to how come Vishal has freed himself of his deep desire to have something connected to Shakespeare in all his ventures, it struck me that even RANGOON had a little to do with Shakespeare: Richard McCabe is an Associate Artist of The Royal Shakespeare Company!!!
Music is another important component of Vishal Bharadwaj’s movies and although none of the songs in his movies are real hits on the hit parade, they sound extremely apt on the screen. The same is true of the music of RANGOON; as an additional bonus, we get to hear different versions of our National Anthem. The photography is also excellent and so are the dialogues by Vishal himself (sample this: Apni Jaan se bhi keemti kuch aur hai kya? Hai, wo jiske liye mar sake!)
Despite all this, taken as a whole, RANGOON doesn’t quite take off. And the problem is the story itself. The so called love story against a war background isn’t a passionate love story. The relationships are more based on conveniences rather than what a love story should be based on. Having perhaps realized this, Vishal tries to weave in the patriotic aspect and is perhaps trying to tell us that this love story is not between individuals as much as it is love for the nation. He succeeds, but only partially. In fact the first half becomes onerous at times and the second half hurtles towards a foregone conclusion, leaving the viewer in a “lost” situation: what is the movie all about? Thankfully, unlike Vishal’s earlier movies, which warranted two viewings to understand the real tale, here one viewing is sufficient to see that there isn’t much to see even the first time!
February 25th, 2017
RATING: 3 out of 5